Swimmer, paddler Cleveland receives Tom Blake Award
by Kevin Cody
In 1976, three years after graduating from Redondo High School, Cindy Cleveland swam 22 miles from Catalina Island to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The following year, she swam the channel again, and then, without resting, swam back to Catalina. The year after that Cleveland swam nonstop around Catalina Island, a distance of 60 miles.
Her body held up fine during the 34-hour swim around Catalina. But her mind had trouble. "Before the race I was seriously trying to think of a way to sleep and keep swimming. After a while I had trouble remembering the names of my two escort paddlers," she recalled.
Cleveland might have thought her mind was playing tricks on her Saturday afternoon. But it was really one of her old paddleboard escorts, Derek Levy, who lured her on stage at the Hennessey Cup Paddleboard awards ceremony.
"She's so shy she would never have come up here if I told her what it was for," Levy announced as he named Cleveland the first woman to receive the Tom Blake Award. During the 1920s and 1930s Blake built the first hollow surfboard, the first surfboard with a fin and the first sailboard. He was also the first person to surf Malibu. The Tom Blake Award is presented by the Hennessey Paddleboard Cup Committee to individuals who have made "extraordinary contributions to the sport and lifestyle of surfing." Previous recipients include big wave rider Greg Noll, pioneer surfboard maker Dale Velzy, and surf photographer Leroy Grannis.
Cleveland was honored Saturday, not only for her swimming achievements, but for her 1985, 1986 and 1987 finishes in the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race. She placed among the top three in the stock division (12-foot boards) in two of the three races.
Cleveland retired from ultra distance swimming in 1980, after swimming across the Monterey Bay, from Santa Cruz Wharf to Pacific Grove. That same year she became one of Los Angeles County's first women lifeguards. She has guarded at Torrance beach for the past ten years.
Also honored at Saturday's luau on Hermosa's Pier Plaza were the top finishers in Saturday morning's 14-mile Hennessey's Cup paddleboard race from Cabrillo Beach to Torrance Beach.
Tim Gair finished in 2:20:10, posting the day's fastest time to win the 18 to 35-year-old, unlimited division. Gene Rink placed second and JP Cruz third. The first woman finisher was Katy Kingery, who finished in 2:57 on a stock board. Turtle Rudolph and Sarah Bilman finished second and third in the women's division.
Gary Fortune won the stock 18 to 35-year-old division in 2:40, followed by Jay Sheckman and Michael Pharoah. Jack Lundquist won the 50-year-and-old and over division in 2:54, followed by his brother Rex Lundquist and PK Brimer.
Mark Levy won the 36 to 49-year-old stock division in 2:55, followed by Alan Voisard and Steve "Boogaloo" Roberts.
Mark Feighan won the 36 to 49-year-old, unlimited division in 2:30, followed by Sean Richardson and Jay Russell.
The next South Bay paddleboard race is the Dale Velzy-Terry Stevens Pier to Pier race on Sunday, July 31. Kids are welcome, and surfboards may be paddled. For more information call the Manhattan Beach Parks & Recreation Department at (310) 545-5621.
The 24th Catalina Classic, a 32-mile race from the Catalina Isthmus to the Manhattan Beach pier will be held on Sunday, August 29. Applications are available by writing Catalina Classic Paddleboard Association, 1817 Laurel Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA 90266. ER
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